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FREDDIE HUBBARD - First Light cover
4.41 | 11 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1971

Filed under Fusion


A1 First Light 11:00
A2 Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey 8:12
B1 Moment To Moment 5:40
B2 Yesterday's Dreams 3:55
B3 Lonely Town 6:55


- Freddie Hubbard / Trumpet, Flugelhorn
- Jack DeJohnette / Drums
- Ron Carter / Double Bass
- Richard Wyands / Piano
- George Benson / Guitar
- Airto Moreira / Percussion
- Phil Kraus / Vibraphone
- Wally Kane / Flute
- Hubert Laws / Flute
- George Marge / Flute and Bassoon
- Romeo Penque / Flute, English Horn and Oboe
- Jane Taylor / Bassoon
- Ray Alonge / French Horn
- James Buffington / French Horn
- Margaret Ross / Harp

About this release

CTI Records – CTI 6013 (US)

Recorded at Van Gelder Studios September 1971

Thanks to snobb, dreadpirateroberts for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

A classic in Freddie Hubbard's discography.

Creed Taylor's CTI Label got a hard time from jazz purists for being too commercial, and for its role in the development of 'smooth jazz.' In particular the string arrangements of Don Sebesky would come under fire.

In 1971 with 'First Light' however, Sebesky's arrangements are subtle and effective, adding much to the more lyrical numbers especially, but also providing haunting moments on the impressive title track.

As with many of the greatest jazz albums, a fine leader is supported by a great cast of backing musicians, two especially who shine, are DeJohnette on the drums and Benson on guitar. It is a large cast (also including Hubert Laws on flute and Arito Moreira on percussion) and Hubbard is superb with them. In fact, it's wonderful to hear him present a mix of relaxed and energetic soloing across the songs.

Title track 'First Light' itself leads off the album and does so with stylish blend of energy and a laid back groove, with some nice soloing from Hubbard and Benson. Hubbard is at times strident and at times happy to leave space with his phrasing, while Benson is in fine form, playing nimble and employing a smooth tone. The Paul McCartney cover, 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' is reworked into a punchy track with DeJohnette stealing the show a little, and Hubbard blasting away.

For the second side of the record, we have the more romantic numbers, where Hubbard takes on songs like 'Lonely Town' from the musical 'On the Town' or Mancini's film noir-inspired 'Moment to Moment.' Most ably assisted by Sebesky's strings and other arrangements, this half of the album is quite meditative and acts as a soothing balm.

The conviction of the playing throughout is the key to this album, which, at first glance, is quite mellow, but has some fire in the opening two tracks. I imagine Hubbard to have gone in to these sessions and decided that 'I don't need to prove anything to anyone' and gone ahead and made an album he really wanted to make. 'First Light' is known as one of his personal favourites and the album is definitely in my top ten. In fact, Hubbard himself says about the album "I didn't have to play that many notes, I didn't have to rack my brains, and it still came out as a meaningful album. I believe that's one of the reasons people got to it, also, because I put more feeling into that album than any other before."

If you are adverse to strings in jazz, then sample this album first. If you're already fan of Hubbard for either his balladry or his moxy, and don't have this one yet, then go for it. You won't be disappointed, as coming off the funky 'Straight Life,' his solos are hot. Five Stars from me.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
After the brilliant Straight Life album, Hubbard comes back the following year with the over-sweetish First Light album, recorded in Van Gelder’s studios and again released again on Creed Taylor’s CTI label. Among the big names participating to this session, only Carter, DeJohnette and Airto are not CTI-linked, but Freddie is the only star blowing horns, since the rest of the players appear to be in-house musicians (the horns and the ever-present string secton), just like the stars Hubert Laws (flute) and George Benson (guitars).

Opening on the excellent 11-mins title track (the only Hubbard composition of the album), we’re dealing with a soft Rhodes-led JR/F track that lays down the general mood of the album. Up next is the McCartney Uncle Admiral cover track holding some outstanding instrumental moments (sometimes nearing orgasmic in its first half) with its gentle flutes (four at a time) and its nine-men string section. On the flipside, hostilities open on a Mancini reprise, a slow standard thing drenched in over-sweet string arrangements, then suddenly shifts into a funky middle section, but the strings are not willing to let go of their syrupy coating until Benson’s guitar cranks the juices down the decibel alley, but those pesky strings are not letting, even after Laws’ flute solo, to eventually suffocate everyone in the closing section.

The even more syrupy Yesterday’s Dream is a soppy and sappy ballad, but has a funkier second half tagged on to it, but the strings are still over-present. And as you might guess, it’s not in a Bernstein adaptation (Lonely Town) that these same strings are going to take it lighter, but they are careful to let through Carter and Hubbard’s contribution. The piece is the drop that overflows the bucket, with the absurdly and almost sickeningly sweet strings spoiling whatever standard big-band-like jazz is present on the track. The closing Fantasy piece does correct the trajectory somewhat, but it’s way too late to save the album as a whole.

If the album’s a-side is particularly fine JR/F, the flipside is so overflooded with insufferable string arrangements that this album could get a Third Stream label tagged on to it. If FL held two A-side, it might have been a better album than Straight Life or Liquid Love, but let’s face it, the harm is done and I can’t think of a better expression than half-baked effort.

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